Saturday, April 28, 2018

My Beloved Alma Mater Tulane University

The New Orleans French Quarter "Rocks" At Night

Agent Dwayne Pride's Classic Cadillac Pulls Away

More Filming Of NCIS New Orleans With CCH Pounder Visible

At The Famous R Bar Watching NCIS New Orleans Being Filmed

Beautiful Jazz Music Plays On A Night Sail On The Mississippi River

Sailing Toward New Orleans At Night On The River Boat Natchez

Sailing Past The Port Of New Orleans On The River Boat Natchez

Setting Sail On The Mississippi River On The River Boat Natchez

Baby Monkeys In The Audobon Zoo

Monkeys In The Audobon Zoo-New Orleans

Leopards In The New Orleans Audobon Zoo

First Photos From Exo-Mars

Thursday, April 26, 2018

Living On Mars

Monday, April 16, 2018

TESS Mission

From The Economist Espresso: Homes from home? The TESS mission

Tuesday, April 10, 2018

ExpMarsOrbiter On The Brink Of Commencing Its Scientific Mission

ExoMars orbiter on the brink of commencing its scientific mission

Artist's impression of the Trace Gas Orbiter around Mars
Artist's impression of the Trace Gas Orbiter around Mars
The ESA/Roscosmos Trace Gas Orbiter (TGO) is mere weeks away from commencing its atmospheric search for evidence of recent geological activity, and possibly life on everyone's favorite Red Planet. The TGO forms one part of the ExoMars program – a joint European and Russianendeavour with the overarching goal of improving humankind's understanding of the Martian environment, and demonstrating new technologies that will benefit future missions.
The TGO made its highly anticipated rendezvous with the Red Planet back in October 2016, after enduring a seven-month, 496 million km (3.8 million mile) journey through interplanetary space.
The probe's handlers were able to guide the robotic explorer from our Blue Marble to its neighboring red cousin, and deploy the ill-fated Schiaparellidescent and landing demonstrator.
Upon completing its capture burn, the TGO found itself traversing a highly eccentric path around the Red Planet. At the closest point in its orbit, known as the periapsis, the probe passed just 200 km (124 miles) from the Martian surface, while at its farthest, the apoapsis, it was roughly 98,000 km (60,894 miles) distant.
In order to make the most of the TGO's advanced suite of scientific instruments, the spacecraft needed to transition to a much lower, near-circular orbit.
Mars atmospheric composition (as measured by the Curiosity rover) compared to that of Earth
This orbital shift was achieved through an ambitious set of maneuvers that saw the spacecraft skim through the uppermost layers of the Martian atmosphere. During these passes, the TGO's solar panels were fully extended, which, with a combined wingspan of 17.5 m (57 ft), essentially acted as a parachute, maximizing the drag between the speeding spacecraft and atmospheric particles.
Each pass only made a difference in velocity of at most 17 mm per second, which doesn't sound like much, but repeated over the course of 950 orbits in 11 months resulted in a deceleration of roughly 3,600 km/h. The team were able to successfully execute the risky deceleration campaign, manipulating the TGO into a 400 km (249 mile)-high, circular orbit perfect for taking detailed measurements of the tenuous Martian atmosphere, and its barren surface.
"We have reached this orbit for the first time through aerobraking and with the heaviest orbiter ever sent to the Red Planet, ready to start searching for signs of life from orbit," said Håkan Svedhem, project scientist for the TGO in a recent ESA press release. "We will start our science mission in just a couple of weeks and are extremely excited about what the first measurements will reveal."
All that remains for the science team prior to beginning observations is to calibrate the probe's equipment, and install new software. Once operational, the TGO will use a mix of advanced spectroscopic instruments, a high-resolution camera capable of imaging the surface with a resolution of 5 m (16 ft) per pixel, and a neutron detector to scan the atmosphere and surface of the dusty world.
The orbiter's first task will be to take an inventory of the trace gasses that make up roughly one percent of the Martian atmosphere, with a focus on hydrocarbons and sulphur species that could be taken as evidence of geologic or biologic activity.
The detection of methane is of particular interest to the TGO science team, as on Earth a large quantity of the gas is produced by living organisms, and through the release of gasses from hydrocarbon gas reservoirs. On Mars, the creation of methane could follow similar paths, with the gas either being produced as part of a geologic process, or even being created by subsurface microbial life. In both scenarios, the methane would eventually be released through cracks permeating the Martian surface.
Methane can only persist in the Martian atmosphere for about 400 years before being broken down by ultraviolet light from the Sun, and altered through interactions with other myriad elements of Mars' gaseous envelope. Therefore, any detection of the gas would be a great indicator of recent, or even ongoing activity.
The TGO's instruments are capable of detecting and analyzing extremely low concentrations of trace gasses with an accuracy up to 1,000 times greater than any previous ground or orbital mission. The probe will also be able to discover the specific origin of important trace gasses like methane, which have more than one possible method of formation.
The TGO will use its Fine Resolution Epithermal Neutron Detector (FREND) to scan the Martian subsurface...
Upon detection, the probe will map the location and altitude of the trace gasses, noting how they react to the shifting Martian seasons. Possible sources of the trace gasses can then be followed up on using the probe's high-res camera.
The spacecraft will also search for evidence of subsurface reservoirs of water ice. The discovery of such a deposit could help inform the location of future crewed and robotic missions hoping to follow up on a geological find, or eventually use the water for something practical, like making rocket fuel.
Furthermore, readings taken by the TGO regarding the quantity of aerosols, water vapor, ozone, and temperature of the Martian atmosphere will allow scientists to create an updated model of circulation processes occurring in the atmosphere of the Red Planet.
The population of robots on and around Mars is set to jump in the next couple of years with the arrival of a raft of new and exciting science missions, including NASA's Mars 2020 rover, the InSight lander, and the ground-based partner of the TGO – the ExoMars rover.
Alongside working to achieve its own scientific goals, the TGO will act as a communications relay between robots exploring the Martian surface, and Earth.

The Space Review: Review: The Earth Gazers

The Space Review: Review: The Earth Gazers

The Space Review: The necessity of a radical review of cybersecurity in space to avoid potentially catastrophic attacks

The Space Review: The necessity of a radical review of cybersecurity in space to avoid potentially catastrophic attacks

The Space Review: SpaceShipTwo is a step closer to space

The Space Review: SpaceShipTwo is a step closer to space

The Space Review: On seeing the Earth for the first time

The Space Review: On seeing the Earth for the first time

The Space Review: So, what about Mars?

The Space Review: So, what about Mars?

A Swarm Of Bees To Explore Mars

Space Buzz

Though human prospects of colonizing Mars are still far off, NASA hasn’t given up on exploring the Red Planet just yet.
In fact, the agency is looking into creating robotic swarms of bees to better study Mars and find signs of life, CNET reported.
Aptly named “Marsbees,” the critter-like robots are as small as a bumblebee and have the wingspan of a cicada.
They could potentially be launched from a mobile space base acting as a communications and recharging station on the Red Planet, allowing the bees to cover more ground than traditional bots and detect signs of life, such as the presence of methane gas.
It’s not the first time adventurous scientists have drawn inspiration from nature. Researchers are currently developing a “hummingbird micro-air vehicle” and will soon test it in a simulation of Mars’ atmosphere.
NASA also recently announced a round of investments for 25 early early-stage tech projects similar to those mentioned to help speed up exploration.
Current rovers have proved helpful in providing information on our neighboring celestial body, but they can only cover so much ground. One rover, Curiosity, has only traversed about 11 miles since landing on Mars in 2012.

Saturday, April 7, 2018

Boeing's First Crewed Spaceflight May Be More Than A Test

Boeing's first crewed space flight may be more than just a test

 Swapna Krishna,Engadget 19 hours ago 

Wednesday, April 4, 2018

Are Mysterious Dark Patches In Venusian Clouds Microbial Life?

Are mysterious dark patches in Venusian clouds microbial life?

A composite image of the planet Venus showing the mysterious clouds that could be home to...
A composite image of the planet Venus showing the mysterious clouds that could be home to microbial life, as seen by the Japanese probe Akatsuki
A new study from an international team of scientists proposes that microbial life could exist in the clouds of Venus. The exciting hypothesis suggests mysterious dark patches seen in the atmosphere could be something akin to algae blooms seen in oceans on Earth.
The surface of Venus is infamously inhospitable. Dominated by volcanos, plains of lava, and temperatures above 450° C (860° F), the landscape is hellish and not that likely to be able to sustain life. Up in the clouds, on the other hand, scientists have identified a sweet spot of environmental conditions that may just be able to support microbial life.
Around 30 miles (48 km) above the planet's surface is a lower cloud layer with temperatures around 60° C (140° F) and pressures similar to that of Earth (unlike the planet's surface with a pressure of 90 atmospheres, equivalent to the pressure felt over a half a mile beneath the ocean). It's not impossible to think that microbial life could exist in this atmospheric Goldilocks zone, after all, here on Earth microorganisms have been found alive at altitudes as high as 25 miles (41 km).
In addition to these incredibly suitable environmental conditions, it's a strange and inexplicable atmospheric phenomenon that is really driving the hypothesis. As long as we have had telescopes good enough to observe Venus in detail, we have witnessed mysterious dark patches moving through its atmosphere. These dark patches seem to be composed of sulfuric acid, alongside unknown particles that absorb ultraviolet light.
"Venus shows some episodic dark, sulfuric rich patches, with contrasts up to 30–40 percent in the ultraviolet, and muted in longer wavelengths," says planetary scientist Sanjay Limaye. "These patches persist for days, changing their shape and contrasts continuously and appear to be scale dependent."
Limaye was struck by the potential similarities between these strange unidentified atmospheric particles and bacteria on Earth that have similar light-absorbing properties. The scientists note in the paper that similar bacterial life on Earth can feed on carbon dioxide and produce sulfuric acid, another primary element observed in these strange Venusian clouds.
A Venus Atmospheric Maneuverable Platform, or VAMP
This isn't the first time that this hypothesis has been proposed, but the team's paper is undoubtedly the most comprehensive examination of this intriguing idea. The next step, of course, is to prove the hypothesis. Limaye points to an unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) concept from aerospace company Northrop Grumman as an exciting possibility. Called VAMP (Venus Atmospheric Maneuverable Platform), this giant UAV could potentially stay aloft in the Venusian clouds for 12 months, constantly gathering data and samples.
The only Venus mission currently on the cards that something like VAMP could be attached to is the Venera-D proposal from Russia. The ambitious plan, hopefully launching within the next 10 years, involves both an orbiter and a lander. At one point, Russia did approach NASA regarding potentially collaborative activities on the mission, but there has been no official confirmation of the collaboration moving forward at this point in time.
Despite attention in recent years moving to moons like Europa and Titan, Venus still holds many compelling mysteries and this new paper suggests the first extraterrestrial microbial life could be found in this fascinating planet's strange clouds.
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Tuesday, April 3, 2018

What 2001 A Space Odyssey Got Right


What ‘2001’ Got Right

Eye of the HAL-9000 computer in the 1968 Stanley Kubrick film “2001: A Space Odyssey.”CreditKevin Bray/MGM, via Photofest
FRANKFURT, Germany — It’s a testament to the lasting influence of Stanley Kubrick and Arthur C. Clarke’s film “2001: A Space Odyssey,” which turns 50 this week, that the disc-shaped card commemorating the German Film Museum’s new exhibition on the film is wordless, but instantly recognizable. Its face features the Cyclopean red eye of the HAL-9000 supercomputer; nothing more needs saying.
A poster for the film.CreditMGM, via Photofest
Viewers will remember HAL as the overseer of the giant, ill-fated interplanetary spacecraft Discovery. When asked to hide from the crew the goal of its mission to Jupiter — a point made clearer in the novel version of “2001” than in the film — HAL gradually runs amok, eventually killing all the astronauts except for their wily commander, Dave Bowman. In an epic showdown between man and machine, Dave, played by Keir Dullea, methodically lobotomizes HAL even as the computer pleads for its life in a terminally decelerating soliloquy.
Cocooned by their technology, the film’s human characters appear semi-automated — component parts of their gleaming white mother ship. As for HAL — a conflicted artificial intelligence created to provide flawless, objective information but forced to “live a lie,” as Mr. Clarke put it — the computer was quickly identified by the film’s initial viewers as its most human character.
Keir Dullea as Dave Bowman, the mission leader in “2001: A Space Odyssey.”CreditKevin Bray/MGM, via Photofest
This transfer of identity between maker and made is one reason “2001” retains relevance, even as we put incipient artificial intelligence technologies to increasingly problematic uses.
In “2001,” the ghost in Discovery’s machinery is a consciousness engineered by human ingenuity and therefore as prone to mistakes as any human. In the Cartesian sense of thinking, and therefore being, it has achieved equality with its makers and has seen fit to dispose of them. “This mission,” HAL informs Dave, “is too important to allow you to jeopardize it.”
Asked in April 1968 whether humanity risked being “dehumanized” by its technologies, Mr. Clarke replied: “No. We’re being superhumanized by them.” While all interpretations of the film were valid, he said, in his view the human victory over Discovery’s computer might prove pyrrhic.
Indeed, with its prehistoric “Dawn of Man” opening and a grand finale in which Dave is reborn as an eerily weightless Star Child, “2001” overtly references Nietzsche’s concept that we are but an intermediate stage between our apelike ancestors and the Übermensch, or “Beyond Man.” (Decades after Nietzsche’s death, the Nazis deployed a highly selective reading of his ideas, while ignoring Nietzsche’s antipathy to both anti-Semitism and pan-German nationalism.)
In the grand finale, Dave is reborn as an eerily weightless Star Child.CreditKevin Bray/MGM, via Photofeat
In Nietzsche’s concept, the Übermensch is destined to rise like a phoenix from the Western world’s tired Judeo-Christian dogmas to impose new values on warring humanity. Almost a century later, Mr. Clarke implied that human evolution’s next stage could well be machine intelligence itself. “No species exists forever; why should we expect our species to be immortal?” he wrote.
We have yet to engineer a HAL-type A.G.I. (artificial general intelligence) capable of human-style thought. Instead, we’re experiencing the incremental, disruptive arrival of components of such an intelligence. Its semi-sentient algorithms learn from text, image and video without explicit supervision. Its automated discovery of patterns in that data is called “machine learning.”
Arthur C. Clarke, author of the novel “2001: A Space Odyssey,” on the set of the movie in 1968.CreditMGM, via Photofest
This kind of A.I. lies behind facial-recognition algorithms now in use by Beijing to control China’s 1.4 billion inhabitants and by Western societies to forestall terrorist attacks.
In Mr. Clarke’s novel, HAL’s aberrant behavior was attributable to contradictory programming. In today’s hyperpartisan context, a mix of machine learning, networks of malicious bots and related A.I. technologies based on simulating human thought processes are being used to manipulate the human mind’s comparatively sluggish “wetware.” Recent revelations about stolen Facebook user data being weaponized by Cambridge Analytica and deployed to exploit voters’ hopes and fears underlines that disinformation has become a critical issue of our time.
The director Stanley Kubrick on the set.CreditMGM, via Photofest
We should consider just whose mission it is that’s too important to jeopardize these days. Does anybody doubt that the clumsy language and inept cultural references of the Russian trolls who seeded divisive pro-Trump messages during the 2016 election will improve as A.I. gains sophistication? Of course, algorithm-driven mass manipulation is only one weapon in propagandists’ arsenals, alongside television and ideologically slanted talk radio. But its reach is growing, and it’s a back door by which viral falsehoods infiltrate our increasingly acrimonious collective conversation.
Traditional media — “one transmitter, millions of receivers” — contain an inherently totalitarian structure. Add machine learning, and a feedback loop of toxic audiovisual content can reverberate in the echo chamber of social media as well, linking friends with an ersatz intimacy that leaves them particularly susceptible to manipulation. Further amplified and retransmitted by Fox News and right-wing radio, it’s ready to beam into the mind of the spectator in chief during his “executive time.”
Keir Dullea as Dave Bowman.CreditKevin Bray/MGM, via Photofeat
Where does HAL’s red gaze come in? Set aside the troubling prospect of what might unfold when a genuinely intelligent, self-improving A.G.I. is created — presumably the arrival of Nietzsche’s Übermensch. What’s in question even with current incipient A.I. technologies is who gets to control them. Even as some devise new medicines and streamline agriculture with them, others use them as powerful forces in opposition to Enlightenment values — liberty, tolerance and constitutional governance.
Democracy depends on a shared consensual reality — something that’s being willfully undermined. Seemingly just yesterday, peer-to-peer social networks were heralded as a revolutionary liberation from centralized information controls, and thus tools of individual human free will. We still have it in our power to purge malicious abuse of these systems, but Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and others would need to plow much more money into policing their networks — perhaps by themselves deploying countermeasures based on A.I. algorithms. Meanwhile, we should demand that a new, tech-savvy generation of leaders recognizes this danger and devises regulatory solutions that don’t hurt our First Amendment rights. A neat trick, of course — but the problem cannot be ignored.
In “2001” ’s cautionary tale, HAL’s directive to deceive Discovery’s crew leads to death and destruction — but also, ultimately, to the computer’s defeat by Dave, the one human survivor on board.
We should be so lucky.
Michael Benson, a writer and artist, is the author, most recently, of “Space Odyssey: Stanley Kubrick, Arthur C. Clarke and the Making of a Masterpiece.”
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A version of this article appears in print on , on Page A23 of the New York edition with the headline: What ‘2001’ Got RightOrder Reprints | Today’s Paper | Subscribe